Kate Crawford joins USC Annenberg to lead research on AI, science and society

Kate Crawford, one of the world’s foremost experts on the social implications of artificial intelligence and the author of Atlas of AI, is joining USC Annenberg to advance critical research on the role of justice and power in socio-technical systems. 

In her two decades as a scholar of science and technology, Crawford has focused her groundbreaking work on understanding large-scale data systems in the wider contexts of politics, history, labor and the environment. At USC Annenberg, she will serve as research professor of communication and science and technology studies beginning in March 2021, and as a faculty affiliate of the USC Center on Science, Technology, and Public Life

“This is an exciting moment in USC Annenberg’s expanding effort to study AI, data and media technologies,” USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said. “Not only will Kate Crawford enrich our intellectual community with her pioneering, interdisciplinary research, she will also help us drive scholarship that defines transformations of communication in the digital age.”

Crawford is the inaugural Visiting Chair for AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research New York, and an honorary professor at the University of Sydney. As co-founder of the AI Now Institute at New York University, she helped create the world’s first university institute dedicated to researching the social implications of AI and related technologies. Crawford has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Parliament and the White House.

In her new book, Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence (Yale University Press, April 2021), Crawford investigates AI as a technology of extraction: from the energy and minerals needed to build and sustain its infrastructure, to the workers behind “automated” services, to the data collected at vast scales.

“I’m delighted to be joining USC Annenberg,” Crawford said. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with this vibrant community of scholars who have been an inspiration to me for a long time.”

Crawford’s work also includes art curation and visual investigations. Her Anatomy of an AI System (2018, with Vladan Joler) visualizes the full life cycle of Amazon Echo from mining, to data centers, to e-waste dumping grounds. The project was awarded the Beazley Design of the Year Award and has been acquired in the permanent collection of both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Her curated exhibition Training Humans (2019–20, with Trevor Paglen) at the Fondazione Prada Osservatorio in Milan, Italy, is the first major exhibition devoted to the politics of training data, critically examining the way images are used to train AI systems how to “see” and categorize the world. 

Crawford’s academic research has been published in journals such as Nature; New Media & Society; Science, Technology & Human Values; and Information, Communication & Society. She was jointly awarded the British Society for the History of Science’s Ayrton Prize for the multi-year research project “Excavating AI.”

“For Professor Crawford, AI is not about abstract computation, but an assemblage of forces that has profound material effects,” said Hector Amaya, director of the School of Communication. “This is why her research is essential to those who are trying to understand current forms of power, and the hidden and often overlooked values and socio-technical effects of computational and technological innovation. With extraordinary clarity and rigor, her work reimagines the intersection of technology studies, engineering, the social sciences, and the humanities, and her presence will have a deep impact at Annenberg and at USC.”


Join USC Annenberg for an event featuring Kate Crawford in conversation with Josh Kun in which the two discuss her book, Atlas of AI, on Tuesday, April 6 at 5 p.m. RSVP here